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To Make Good Again

Categories: Nonfiction

From Anne Raeff’s “To Make Good Again,” in the current issue:

Buch (Book) was my first word, according to my parents, though it probably was more like my first interesting word—third, at the earliest, after Mama and Papa. Whatever the first word, German was my first language, and I did not learn English until I went to preschool at the age of four. Still, I do not consider German my native tongue. English is the language I grew up in, went to school in; English is the language I write in.

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Announcing the new print issue: NER Vol. 33, #3

Categories: News & Notes

The new issue of New England Review is on its way from the printer, and a sample of the contents is available here on our website, both in WordPress and PDF formats. The full issue can be ordered online right here for only $10, including shipping.

In these pages, you’ll find new fiction by Norah Charles, David Guterson, Ihab Hassan, Stephen O’Connor, Leath Tonino, and Adrienne Sharp, appearing alongside new poems by Howard Altmann, Geri Doran, Robin Ekiss, Brendan Grady, Jennifer Grotz, Margaree Little, John Poch, Mark Rudman, and Jake Adam York.

In nonfiction, Sara Maitland uncovers the roots of our fairy tales in the forests of Europe; Anne Raeff reflects on the languages in which she writes her life; Craig Reinbold reports on his days in a classroom in a west side Chicago public school; and Myles Weber probes the life and reputation of Raymond Carver. Plus Isabel Fargo Cole‘s translation of fiction by midcentury German author Franz Fühmann and a brief philosophical investigation by George Santayana. This issue’s cover features artwork by the painter Caryn Friedlander. ORDER A COPY

Black market delicacies

Categories: NER Digital

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The Leningrad Dress | Nonfiction by Anne Raeff

In the summer of 1973 we visited my father’s relatives in the Soviet Union. For the trip, my parents bought six oversized suitcases and stuffed them with clothing, toys and Timex watches. We presented these gifts to our relatives, the ones who were not afraid to have contact with foreigners, at my great aunt Vera’s gloomy communal apartment, where we were served black market delicacies—caviar, herring, chocolate, oranges—and plenty of vodka. Even we children got a taste.

One particularly hot afternoon after another lunch filled with elaborate toasts that I didn’t understand, my parents allowed me to take my sister to the park for an ice cream. My father wrote down what I should say to the ice cream vendor in Romanized Russian, and made me practice it until I had it right. After successfully procuring two double-scoop cones, we were sitting on a bench enjoying our treat when a group of Japanese tourists surrounded us.

“Photo, photo,” they said.

“We’re American,” we said, pointing to our shoes and jeans, “American,” but they were already snapping away happily.

 *

Among the relatives I met the summer of 1973 was Natasha, who, with my father’s sponsorship, immigrated here in 1980 with her daughter Katya and her parents. Today Natasha lives with her American husband Joe, an avid fan of conservative talk radio, in a four-bedroom/three-and-a-half bathroom house in a suburban development of Baltimore.

I visited them recently, and Katya and her husband came for dinner. Natasha prepared a full Russian meal, including a great variety of zakuski—herring, cabbage, beet and mushroom salad—served with potatoes and Russian black bread. Of course we drank vodka and raised our glasses in long, sentimental toasts to family members who were no longer with us, including my father, and, at Natasha’s insistence, to the United States and freedom.

After dinner, while Joe watched Fox news, which I was able to tune out by concentrating on the photos and drinking more vodka, we looked at Natasha’s photo albums.

“I remember that dress,” I said, pointing to a picture of Katya posing in front of The Hermitage. She was wearing my dress, one of many hand-me-downs that we had included in the suitcases of gifts we brought to the Soviet Union in 1973. I had been happy to pass it off: “I hated it. It made me look pregnant, the way it flared out above the waist. Whenever I wore it, the boys asked me how many months along I was and whether I was hoping for a boy or a girl. I cried every time my mother laid it out.”

“I would have worn that dress every day if my mother had let me,” Katya said. “No one in all of Leningrad had a dress like that.”

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NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. Anne Raeff’s short stories “The Buchovskys on Their Own” and “Keeping an Eye on Jakobson” appeared in previous issues of NER. She is the author of the novel Clara Mondschein’s Melancholia.